I have been very fortunate to have been invited to speak at a few seminars recently on high profile and high asset divorce. This month (November, 2011) I have already spoken in Mexico to Sports and Entertainment Lawyers, to Asset Recovery Specialists in Las Vegas, and on November 21, 2011, I am on a panel with David Boies and others to speak on High Profile representation (for program information, click here). Over 2,100 lawyers have signed up for this one. While it is always flattering to be asked to speak, being asked to speak alongside one of, if not the best lawyer in the country, David Boies is one of the highlights of my career. Just preparing with him and the other panelists has been a thrill. The real challenge will be to not say too much during our presentation so that I may learn as much as I can from him and our other panelists.
While we have been honored to represent our share of public figures, David Boies has been hired for the biggest cases by the highest profile clients (Al Gore, Mrs. McCourt, the NFLPA and the NBPA among others). This program will be educational for all, and I will have the best seat in the house. I am flattered and grateful to have been invited onto the panel and look forward to learning a lot from my co-panelists. If there is anything you want us to address during the program, let me know so I can see if we can work it in. If we can’t, I’ll do my best to get answers to your questions after the program.
Our country seems fascinated with the family lives, especially divorces of celebrities. Perhaps that is because we see celebrities as role models or who we often aspire to be. Thus it is interesting to see how famous people act, or react in situations that many of us non-celebrities also face.
The Lopez/Anthony divorce just happens to be the most current celebritiy divorce. What is interesting to me is only that it is so interesting to everyone else. All major news organizations reported on it immediately, even though there was really nothing to report. Perhaps it is that we romanticize our celebrities. We want their marriages to work since they are who we aspire to be?
Celebrities have many issues the average person will never have to face (crazy visitation schedules, nanny issues and significant asset division and/or support payments). But ultimately, celebrities are like anyone else. They get their feelings hurt, they have pride and they sometimes feel a need to “win” almost as if that is an achievement. But most often, they ultimately realize that it is best to put the legal process behind them and to resolve matters. Using lawyers to do their communicating often has its limits and almost always, celebrities figure out what they want to do and then tell their lawyers to “make it so”. They are used to controlling their own destiny and often more confident than the average person in their own decisions. After all, their own decisions got them where they are.
There are also many celebrities who meet with us (divorce lawyers) and never file anything. When they finally do make the decision to seek a divorce, they usually know what they want and are ready to make a deal. It would not surprise me if Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony, like many other famous couples, had already investigated the process for a very long time and had a good idea of what the outcome should and would be long before one or both of them made the decision to end the marriage.
And the way they handled it is the way it should be done. A joint statement like they have done letting the world know they are mature enough to handle it privately for the sake of their children is wonderful.
When two wealthy people fight, judges often are more upset. Every day in Family Court, judges see regular people scraping to survive and raise their children every day. It seems Ms. Lopez and Mr. Anthony recognized this and it is admirable that they have resolved matters outside of court. That is how it should always be done, in my opinion and I hope others will follow their example, if they decide to divorce.
There were countless celebrity divorce and family law cases in the news. Just think of Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods, Octomom, Kate Gosselin, Sandra Bullock and perhaps the biggest of all, The McCourts (Owners of the L.A. Dodgers).
It is time for the media to start looking back and summarizing the stories that made news. CNN has already written one on celebrities’ troubles.
Still, what continues to amaze me, is how interested the public is in other people’s lives. Have we become a voyeuristic society? Or do we simply take comfort in knowing that even those who seem to have it all are not immune from the same type of pain and emotional (and often financial and physical) agony the rest of us may endure?
As a family law attorney it is often difficult to see so much hardship. But our role as lawyers is to help reduce that pain. To counsel and to make a bad situation a little better, or at least tolerable. Often we are the only ones who can see the light at the end of the tunnel; that there will be a tomorrow. So perhaps the most important thing we can do is to reassure our clients that tomorrow does come. And look, here it is, 2011. Many people have suffered in 2010, but many have made it through to a new year. Here’s to hoping that things get better for those who had a rough 2010, and that those who didn’t, continue to be blessed in 2011 and beyond.
What an example of how different homelife can be from someone’s public personna. The things said on the tapes are despicable and certainly will change many people’s opinion of Mel Gibson. But how it will affect his likely visitation dispute is unknown. Clearly most judges will believe anger management and other counseling is needed. And an expert psychological opinion may be needed before the judge or the mother agree to Mr. Gibson being alone with the child. But there is likely much more to the story. Without being an apologist for Mr. Gibson, other facts, once known, may change our opinion again. Perhaps he was so drunk that he couldn’t even stand up? If so, then he may still be disliked for what he said, but he may then seem less of a physical threat if he has never acted like this when sober or when physically capable of inflicting harm.
The point is, no one really knows anyone else, if their only information comes from the media, or even if it is just from public, social observation. One thing is clear, especially to me as a family law attorney: abusive behavior is certainly not limited to the poor or uneducated. Human traits are specific to humans, all humans. And each situation should only be judged after all the facts are known. Unfortunately, our court systems are overwhelmed and sometimes the full story isn’t told. But a thoughtful, careful review of all the facts is important, even if, as may potentially be the case for Mel Gibson, they ultimately all lead to the same conclusion.
The most telling fact for me, in this situation, is that Mr. Gibson had his second chance. His previous racist comments became public, and he was given a second chance. But it seems, if these tapes are indeed of him and not “doctored” in any way, that he truly has some tough issues to tackle. All anyone can hope is that he acknowledges them and does whatever it takes to overcome them. America loves a comeback, but this one may take some time.
There is so much speculation about the impending Tiger v. Elin settlement, that it is hard to know what the agreement will be. It seems Tiger wants Elin to keep things private and it looks like Elin will be compensated well for that. But $750,000,000.00? That seems like quite an overpayment and I imagine the settlement numbers will be much lower.
But so what? It is their business. He earned the money and she is his wife and the mother of his children (paternity claims of others notwithstanding). My point is that these two have shared things that no one else can fully understand or appreciate. Any settlement is a compromise between two people where each obtains something they want. Based on the public speculation and intermittent reports, it seems Tiger wants privacy and Elin wants financial security. What do those terms mean? It is up to them. Sure we can all speculate and say that she is overreaching or that he is overpaying (some say there is no amount he can pay for what he did, but many would feel that several million would be a good start if their spouse tried to purchase their forgiveness).
But the real answer to what will the settlement be, is: whatever they choose. They both have able counsel and will ultimately each get what they want or they will not reach an agreement. Tiger can seemingly afford a luxurious settlement amount and Elin, with such financial security can likely be convinced to keep it all private. She has so far. If it was truly all about vengeance, it seems she would have gone public by now. So, good for each of them. For working on it privately and for possibly resolving such a large division of assets rather quickly, efficiently and secretly.
Isn’t it amazing how interested the press is in celebrity cases? Thankfully it seems that in Tiger’s case and Sandra Bullock’s case, the parties and the lawyers are being tight lipped. The same is true for Dwayne Wade, but given that he had to go to court, there has obviously been more coverage. What we should all appreciate is that the privacy of these parties has been preserved, at least with respect to the specific details of their divorces. Dwayne Wade’s divorce shows how litigation exposes their private lives. It seems he (Dwayne Wade) had little choice given that his wife went through nine lawyers and skipped a court date or two. But compliments to the Woods family and the Bullock/James family for not opening up the dispute to further public inspection and comment. Just like any divorce, litigation should be a last, not first option.